Enrollment in Blaine County schools tallied lower than expected—and less than in previous years—during the official count this month, which will likely hurt state funding in the future.

On Nov. 1, 3,401 students were registered across the district’s nine schools—38 fewer than the district projected, and 66 fewer than at the same time in 2018. The state will take the new figure and plug it into its school funding formula, which means less money coming in.

The dip wasn’t a shock to school administrators. District Finance Manager Bryan Fletcher projected lower numbers into the future as babies born during the lean years of the Great Recession push out larger classes born prior. It’s tough to project; Fletcher bases his estimates on birth rate, not migration to the county. But he expects total enrollment to trend down through the 2025-26 school year.

“That’s our reality right now, unless we fix our workforce housing problem, and people start taking jobs here,” Superintendent GwenCarol Holmes said.

The state is mulling changes to how it funds public schools, and Holmes continues to track the changes out of Boise. Even if approved during the upcoming legislative session, the new formula wouldn’t take effect for several years.

“We don’t think we’re growing,” Holmes said. “And, if we’re not growing, we’re not getting more money from the state, and we’re not hiring any new staff.”

Email the writer: mdee@mtexpress.com

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